My ode to the magic and mystery of cats-
Oh, how I love cats! Such beautiful and mysterious souls. These sensitive felines- shapeshift in and out of our world, exploring their environment with wonder and instinctual reflexes, only to come home yet again-to connect with us in our time of need and outer calling. Their gentle purring soothes our heart and mends our wounds. We connect and gently drift into the dreamtime from a cat’s eye.
Oh, how I love cats!-Kelly Holland Azzaro
I’ve had cats pretty much all my life and have been using aromatherapy for myself and family (including many of our animal friends) for over 25 years. To date, I have not had any negative issues manifest with our cats. I also work with helping to socialize feral cats and often will incorporate the use of flower essences and scent (in particular via fresh aromatic plants placed around for the cats to experience the calming aromas if they choose), and include the use of some diluted hydrosols spritz in the air (based on individual needs, etc.). Some cats can get a bit overly excited from certain scents so keep that in mind too.
I use common-sense safe use guidelines when diffusing. If my cats are in the same room as I, and there is a need for me to diffuse, I will then use an aroma stone (TM) unit which gently warms the essential oil drops (1-2 is all that is needed) for a smaller area (such as near my office desk) versus an atomizer or nebulizer type unit, which both infuse essential oils into a larger space at a more concentrated method (which this can be too potent for some animals) . Otherwise, there are many other options to experience the benefits of aromatherapy for yourself and family without having to rely on a diffuser all the time. Aromatherapy jewelry, personal inhalers, scent strips and topical application are some of the ways to incorporate the use of scent into your life.
Aromatherapy uses for felines is somewhat limited due to a cat’s sensitive metabolic system and their internal organs-the liver and kidneys do not break down certain substances due to lack of enzymes. Cats lack the enzymes to break down certain individual components contained in a multitude of products, including some components (such as salicylates) found in essential oils. This important liver detoxification enzyme is called glucuronosyltransferase. Cats may suffer from a toxic reaction through exposure to certain essential oil applications/exposure and or elevated liver enzymes may be found in your cat’s blood test results.
However, please note that this type of reaction has been found in past cases (cats and dogs) where essential oils were used improperly via excessive and high percentages, as well as when not properly diluted or with accidental ingestion of larger amounts. Poor quality and oxidized oils have also contributed to negative reactions in both animals and humans. The use of old, oxidized (adulterated) and rancid oils must be avoided with all individuals (animals and humans). While the use of a high-quality essential oil is important for use with humans and animals, that aspect does not take away the importance of using them safely. It is important to also avoid the use and exposure of any artificially based fragrance oils/ingredients (as well as potent artificial-laden products) with people and pets (these type of ingredients can trigger reactions even from simple inhalation exposure).
- Use caution when diffusing essential oils in a household with cats (be sure the cat has access to exit the room freely).
- Have fresh air circulating in the area where a diffuser is used.
- Do not apply pure undiluted (neat) essential oils directly to cats.
- Avoid use of essential oils high in salicylates (birch and wintergreen) with and around cats.
- Avoid use of essential oils high in phenols with cats.
- Use caution when handling your cat if you have applied essential oils/aromatherapy products topically to yourself.
- Always keep essential oils and aromatherapy products out of reach of children and pets.
- If you notice any type of negative reaction with your cat, discontinue the use of essential oils and contact your veterinarian if need be.
- See the Diffusion page for additional information.
The use of some of the hydrosols when diluted is a safer option for cats and other smaller mammals. Some hydrosols-hydrolats (the aromatic-water from the steam distillation process of plant material such as flowers and leaves) can be a gentler and safer alternative for animals, and for cats, if used in diluted form (based on specific hydrosol components). Exposure to some of the aromatic herbal plants such as lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) can be quite soothing to some animals and for others, it may induce a bit of excited energy. Again, everyone, including our animal friends are unique individuals and lavender is not loved by all. Always use under the guidance of a professional aromatherapist with additional education in animal aromatherapy.
Note: Please note we are exploring this particular subject in hopes to bring additional clarity in regards to the use of some aromatics with cats. There is new thought that cats (or perhaps not all cats) may not have the difficulty in breaking down certain components within essential oils (as they do with other ingredients found in some medications and botanicals, in particular, salicylates (found in aspirin as well as essential oils of birch and wintergreen) that was originally stated in veterinarian medicine. There is one veterinarian, Melissa Shelton, DVM who has been working with aromatherapy with cats and compiling her research (and blood tests) with positive results. There are other veterinarians who also use aromatherapy with cats and birds with successful outcomes, including Janet Roark, DVM. We look forward when this information will be published. It is important to be open-minded to new data, research, as well as personal and professional experience, including student case studies and how we can learn more from all this information to help our animal friends.
More information to come in the future as we explore and expand on this delicate subject. There are also other professionals trained in aromatics for animals and they too have had a positive experience when working safely with cats, these include Caroline Ingraham, Nayana Morag, and Kristen L. Bell (all three have authored books on the topic, each with similar and different views). As with any book or articles on certain topics, it is up to the reader to explore what works for them and to also do their own research and ultimately take educational courses and or consult with an aromatherapist trained in animal aromatherapy.